Ratings website Yelp is suing San Diego law firm McMillan Law Group for more than $25,000 for allegedly using employers to write positive posts about the firm.
Owner Julian McMillan denied writing the positive reviews or persuading his employees to write them.
“I don’t really have time to hop onto websites and goof around,” he said.
According to the lawsuit, reviews make claims like, “I certainly recommend McMillan Law Group for a quick, efficient and pain-free bankruptcy experience. I am now back on my feet again financially thanks to the firm.”
McMillan argues the lawsuit has “no merit,” and that it’s in retaliation for him taking the company to small claims court earlier this year over an advertising dispute, in which he claims Yelp treats non-advertising companies differently.
“They’re an internet bully and they abused their dominant internet position for advertising contracts,” he said.
Following the trial, the attorney publicized a court transcript in which a judge called Yelp “the modern-day version of the mafia,” and enlisted other small businesses to file their own grievances.
In April, a judge ordered Yelp to reimburse McMillan for $2,700. That ruling was about to be overturned by an appeals court and brought to arbitration when Yelp filed its own lawsuit.
Yelp spokeswoman Kristen Whisenand denied that the lawsuit’s timing had any relevance. “We take a very aggressive stance against all attempts to mislead consumers,” she told Bloomberg Businessweek in an email. “McMillan’s behavior is particularly disappointing given they have targeted some of the most vulnerable consumers of all: individuals who are at risk of losing everything and are using Yelp to find assistance.”
This is the second time the website has filed a complaint over deceptive reviews. The first was against BuyYelpReview.com, a company that sold fake reviews to businesses to improve their image.
Yelp is suing for breach of contract, intentional interference with contractual relations, and other actions.